Observations Ethics Man

Once a month, or the secret to raising the status of medical ethics

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h2883 (Published 02 June 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2883
  1. Daniel K Sokol, practising barrister and medical ethicist, 12 King’s Bench Walk, London
  1. Sokol{at}12kbw.co.uk

We need to send a strong message that ethics is relevant and important and belongs to the clinic rather than the classroom

Ethics was a key theme at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons’ Scientific Congress in Perth this May. The topics ranged from the ethics of innovative surgery to the ethics of medicolegal work. In my speech to the delegates, I applauded the selection of the theme and gently criticised the situation “up north.” I referred to the lack of an ethics course on the vast menu of courses offered by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and recounted a failed attempt to publish an article on neurosurgical ethics in a leading surgical journal for lack of a category allowing articles on ethics. I argued that the 21st century surgeon is a clinician who is both technically proficient and ethically astute, shedding the old reputation as a “doer” with little time for reflection.

Between sessions, I asked delegates from several countries if ethics formed part of their national medical school curriculum. It did, but all my interviewees added that the subject had a poor reputation among students. It seems, sadly, that …

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